Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review of Closed Circuit

In the international suspense thriller Closed Circuit, a high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly unites two former lovers on the defense team. This assignment tests the limits of their loyalties and places their lives in jeopardy. The movie begins with an explosion in a busy London market. In the manhunt that follows, only one member of the suspected terrorist cell survives, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), and is arrested and jailed. Preparations begin for what promises to be the trial of the century. However, here is a big problem. The government plans to use classified evidence to prosecute Erdogan. The evidence is so secret that neither he nor his lawyers can be allowed to see it. Because of this situation the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) appoints a Special Advocate, a government-approved defense lawyer Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), who is clearance to see classified evidence and who can argue for its full disclosure when the trial moves to "closed" session. The rules for the Special Advocate are clear. Once the secret evidence is presented to her, Claudia will not be allowed to communicate with the defendant or with other members of the defense team. But on the eve of the case going to trial, Erdogan's lawyer dies suddenly, and a new defense attorney, Martin Rose (Eric Bana), is appointed. Martin is tenacious, driven, and brilliant. Unfortunately, Martin and Claudia once had a relationship and this violates the rules. The two lawyers make an uncomfortable pact to keep their former affair hidden. As Martin begins to piece the case together, a sinister conspiracy emerges that draws the two attorneys into a dangerous alliance.

The movie never fulfills its promise. The government's actions in covering up their mistake becomes obvious and the story develops into a stereotype of two people fighting the system. We quickly discover the problem and the solution becomes obvious - death for the spy who knows too much and compromise for the attorneys in the case. The chemistry is lacking between the former lovers and they seem more like former friends who became rivals. There are some interesting although predictable plot turns - the death of American journalist and betrayal of colleague. The best part of the movie is government's key witness. However, his motivation for testifying is not explored.

We rate Closed Circuit

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cryptologic Heritage

National Cryptologic Museum
The National Security Agency (NSA) has been in the news a great deal over the past few months.  The unwanted publicity has created fertile grounds for writers wanting to exploit the public's interest in the organization and the government's interest in our emails and cell phone conversations. 

The National Security Agency website provides a great deal of information on its mission and activities.  Its main task, at least in my view, is to "Collect (including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions."

What is Cryptology
At the heart of the Agency is "Global Cryptologic Dominance" in order "to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances."  NSA's role is more than obtaining data and another important task is preventing attacks on various systms.  Cybersecurity is a critical issue that confronts all Americans.  Hacking into credit card records such as occurred at Target during the Christmas shopping season is of concern to all Americans and a very good reason we should support NSA's efforts.  Code breaking and obtaining data is of course critical in the fight against terrorism and actions by rogue nations such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea.  The tradeoff between personal liberty and government oversight of its citizens is the subject of serious debate.  Frankly, I feel safer with strong measures that could deter another event like 9/11.

Cryptologic Treasures
There are several places where the public can learn more about NSA's "Cryptologic Heritage."  I recently had the opportunity to visit one of these sites, the National Cryptologic Museum.  It is a fascinating place and one that you may wish to add to your agenda when visiting Washington.  The Photo Gallery contains downloadable images of exhibits and cryptologic devices.